Special Needs Child to Special Hands of Kashmir

From a Special Need Person to starting Special Hands of Kashmir a self help group is the story and journey of Tariq Ahmad Mir.

Tariq Ahmad Mir , was born in a village named Gotapora in Budgam district of Jammu & Kashmir . Tariq was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, a Rare Neurological Disorder  a condition which leads to the degeneration of muscles. 2 of his other brothers were also born with the same Neurological Disorder. And, unfortunately one of his elder brother expired recently.

Tariq, has been facing challenges right from his birth. With physiotherapy and local medicines, he could start walking with support at the age of three. He started schooling at 7 in a Govt Primary School in his locality. After primary he was admitted in Government High school Wadwan Budgam, which was two kilometres away from his residence. He remembers that he had walk for about an hour to reach the school. Though drained of energy, Tariq faced the difficult times and cleared his 10th Class Exams with 55%. He moved to another Govt School to do his XI and XII. There was just one lone bus on that route. His struggles were multiplying. The bus either used to be late, and / or overcrowded. Due to his health condition and the transport difficulties he could not attend school regularly. But he is happy that he cleared his Board 12th exams with 54%. He fondly remembers his friends who helped him during this struggling period.

Tariq joined Amar Singh Degree College for undergraduate programme, but could not find any proper support and companion for the college. After completing 1st year of graduation on regular basis, Tariq felt it is cumbersome to travel.  He could not manage the travel in the overloaded buses, he had to discontinue his regular college, but her went on ahead to continue the 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate degree in distance mode and completed the course in 2007 with 47% marks. Tariq continued his quest for education. He joined Kashmir University, and completed his Post Graduation in Urdu subject with 59% marks and B. Ed with 68%.  Recently Tariq qualified NET in Urdu subject in July 2018. He didn’t permit disability to come in the path of his educational career.

Tariq says he was a hard working student, and was always focussed on his education goals. He feels his health and disability threw many challenges in his path, but he kept his focus more on his goal than the difficulties he was facing.

Tariq was from a remote area, and from an un-educated family background. His family was also going through financial difficulties. His father Mohamed Sultan Mir , was a Master in Sozni Embroidery work – a style of embroidery work from the Jammu & Kashmir region. His father being the sole bread winner for the family, struggled to manage the family. And having to take care of three special children was an additional burden. All brothers and sisters got trained in the embroidery work to support the family.

Apart from physical difficulties, Tariq was beginning to feel the financial difficulties too. In 2006 when Tariq was not able to pay the fee for his studies in college, he started part time artisan work of making Kashmiri Sojni work with his father. Within one month, Tariq got trained and continued the handiwork and started earning a little to fulfill his educational needs.

When he completed his Masters, he started looking for Jobs. And when he cleared his NET exams, he was confident he would get a Professor’s job. But, he continued to face rejections everywhere because of his disability. He was beginning to feel depressed and dejected. The family was also facing financial difficulties, and he was beginning to feel himself as a burden. But, his family kept encouraging him to start his business in the same field, and this prompted him to start their own Organization which was named – Special Hands of Kashmir in 2010, and in 2017 the organization got registered as a unit in handicraft department. 

Later he trained his two brothers, who too were facing severe disability, to start artisan work and he succeeded in making the  self help group improve the Shawl work in his area. Tariq joined Humanity Welfare Helpline a local NGO for disability rights  and worked with various organizations for branding Kashmiri Shawl work at National and international levels. These include  MESH – an international organization and Arunium – program for enabling capacity of persons with disabilities in artisanship, an initiative from National Trust under Ministry of Social Justice.

Initially the self help group was doing job work for other groups, and sustaining was very difficult.  Tariq tried to get support from the Handicrafts Department too but soon realised, that the government handicrafts department has never encouraged differently-abled artisans. 

Arunim supported them to undergo capacity building programs & helped in marketing of products  too . During this period the Group was in good position but once again there was a challenge when Arunim was no more a part of the national trust. The support from them too stopped. But, by this time Tariq had helped in getting the Group recognition, and had also mastered the Trade. They got support and started working with Sumithra Prasad of DORAI Foundation and Nishtha who is the chairman of Smiles Charitable Trust . Tariq had joined as a fellow in  New Indian Artisan fellowship by Fair trade forum India with support of Hans foundation .He became  a member of NEDAR (network of differently abled entrepreneurs ) and they were soon the producer group of MESH (maximum employment to serve the handicapped ) and  worked with CTOK (commitment to Kashmir ).

Today Special Hands of Kashmir is a source of livelihood for a group of 40 artisans and is indirectly working with nearly 500 artisans. Tariq had already presented his business plans in a competition and won a prize, he had made in-roads to many exhibitions all over India and was selling at different stalls.

New challenges came in Tariq’s path when Article 370, which conferred a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was scrapped on August 5, 2019. There was a closure and communications were blocked in the region last year. Tariq was becoming worried about the livelihood and did not know how he would be able to sell the stock which was already with them. After about 2 months communications channels opened a little. Tariq received a good news from New Delhi informing him that he had been selected for the Fair Trade Forum Fellowship funded by the Fair Trade Forum-India (FTF-I). Tariq was one amongst ten artisans from across India who had been selected. Tariq was allowed to set up his stall at Delhi Hatt , where he managed to clear his stock as well as do additional business.

Tariq plans to expand his business with presence in different parts, and also to start an online portal. With his business plans, he is confident he would be able to make an impact soon. Apart from thinking about livelihood for women, the artisans, Tariq is very keen on the development of the Differently Abled. 

Having faced so many challenges, and overcoming them, Tariq believes ………….It’s Possible 

Tariq’s achievements and Roles


Udaan–Dorai Foundation Chennai 2015

Role Model in Disability Sector, on eve of World Disability Day – 2013 

Role Model Award by JIGER NGO 2017

State award by J&K Government

Best state co-ordinator award by vicklong Sarah Smarti Delhi

Fair trade India with the support of NSDC organised two day ability expo and Tariq got an award and cash prize of 5000 while presenting his business plan during Business plan competition In science college Dwarka Delhi.

Exhibitions Attended:

Delhi HAAT Shiliputsava MSJE

Indian International Trade Fair 2013 14 to 28 November 

Surajkund Mela 1st February to 15 February Faridabad 2014 Arunium

Two days National Seminar on Artisanship 

Winter Mela (Kashmir Festival Special flood victims) DASKAAR Delhi 2014

MESH Annual program Kodaykanal Tamil Nadu

Winter Mela 12th December to 25 December 2017.

One day exhibition Christian School Safderjung 

Tea &Chai guest house Delhi.

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